This first of five standalone episodes was screened at London’s BFI on Tuesday, kicking off what are sure to be some of the show’s most ambitious and gloriously cinematic adventures yet. Anyone thinking they’ve already got season seven opener Asylum of the Daleks pegged is in for the most delicious surprise. There’s plenty of action, emotion and sparkling one-liners, as you’d expect from a Steven Moffat-penned script and a terrific return to form from the most iconic of Doctor Who villains.
With the Doctor withdrawing from intergalactic public life following the events of The Wedding of River Song, his story has slipped into legend. However a little interference from Skaro’s worst export sees the Doctor reunited with companions Amy and Rory and headed to a planet full of defective, battle scarred and downright mad Daleks – the aforementioned asylum.
“These are the Daleks who survived me.” Well this should be interesting.
Some scenes showed more in common with horror than traditional Saturday night viewing – bloodless of course, Doctor Who is and always shall be a family show. The rusted, decaying occupants of the asylum were a welcome change to how the Daleks have been portrayed in recent years and there’s always something special about episodes which add to the lore of an old enemy.
Whovians will love it, not just because the Daleks are back to being bloody scary but also because all eras of their history are featured in the episode, including one pinched from Russell T Davies’ hallway.
But it’s not all action; expect tears before bedtime because Amy and Rory are leaving the show and it is promising to be a heart wrenching exit. Demon’s Run has had a devastating effect on the Pond marriage and actors Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill bring some tear jerking moments of intimacy to this grandiose story. It’s a pleasure to watch them, but bittersweet knowing their final hoorah will come by the fifth of these adventures, The Angels Take Manhattan.
Tuesday night’s premiere was followed by a Q&A session with Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill, showrunner Steven Moffat and producer Caroline Skinner.
The finality of these five stories wasn’t lost on Gillan, who admitted that she had avoided reading her last scenes. “I was in denial. I didn’t want to make it real” said the actress.
Steven Moffat remained tight lipped about his plans for the 50th anniversary of the show, despite being grilled on the subject of multi-Doctor storylines and having dinner with David Tennant.
What was certain was that Matt Smith would be staying in the iconic role into 2014. “I’m not an idiot. I’m not going to leave Doctor Who in its biggest year ever, I was always going to be around” he said, debunking claims he had signed a new contract.
Any notions of shoes to fill are well and truly out the window. Matt Smith’s performance as the Doctor has been consistently nuanced and hard to pin down, and it was a wonderful to see him don the bow tie and tweed once more.
As ever Steven Moffat showed a deft hand juggling the hardcore fans and Saturday night casual viewers looking for some family friendly fun. Asylum of the Daleks is a triumphant return for the show, with some massive surprises in store, cinematic visuals and an iconic enemy given a fresh coat of paint that will hopefully last into next year’s celebrations.
Doctor Who series 7 is coming to BBC One later this year.